On FULL COMMUNISM

FULL COMMUNISM

Cursory notes by spitzenprodukte on the evolution of a memetic non-demand.

You hear it everywhere, these days, if you walk within a certain activist milieu. It’s a token demand, a given. FULL COMMUNISM- I wouldn’t get out of bed for anything less. It’s a joke, a dumb joke. It’s a communist meme. Like all good memes, it’s pretty much devoid of meaning, in terms of content. But its use denotes something else– a Zizekian uber-demand, a demand which goes beyond. FULL COMMUNISM is both a lack, in a very real sense, but also a pointed lack, its very meaninglessness a cry for meaning.

It started as an in-joke, like all memes. Its current status bears little or no relation to that first meaning; it was emptied of its content, and the original is now of little worth except as a badge of pride to those “who were there, who saw it, maaaannn”. Of course, “Full Communism” has a specific meaning within Marxian economics; it is the stage following the dictatorship of the proletariat, where all social needs are met. For Marx, Full Communism enables a man

“to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner… without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic”

That’s as maybe, but it bears little relationship to the development of the FULL COMMUNISM meme. The subject of our study first arose as a small meme within a UK-hosted libertarian-communist web forum, Libcom.org, on the board “Libcommunity”. For context, if Libcom.org was 4chan.org, the “Libcommunity” board would be its /b/ board. The initial in-joke revolved around a member of the board wearing a complete outfit of a single sportswear brand, Lonsdale— also known as “Full Lonsdale”. Through various changes, this early-stage meme shifted form; the basic unit of the meme was FULL (X). (X) could be replaced with any verb or noun signifying an ironic hyperbolic emphasis, with a touch of malice. For example, a group member exhibiting a desire to organize activists around a single position may have been called “FULL PLATFORMIST”. FULL COMMUNISM was a variant that perpetuated in memetic form because it contained that quintessential characteristic of a meme—it held resonance and could be used in multiple contexts.

In early 2011 the ultra-leftist propaganda group Deterritorial Support Group (DSG) were featured in an article for fashion and art website Dazed Digital, and stated their aims were “full communism with lulz as a transitional demand”. Perhaps it was just the timing, coming after the student protests and in the middle of the Arab Spring, or, more likely, the structural advantage of DSG as a twitter-facing, fast-traffic group, but it was at this moment that FULL COMMUNISM broke free of its origin-group, and transferred fully into the realm of “the memetic”. Tweetable, and, more importantly, easily hashtagged, the slogan became a recurring fixture first within the London/Brighton activist Left, before spreading outside the South-East of England and across the UK.

#Occupy, the worldwide movement based upon the spectacular seizure of public space, has started to build stronger links between activist communities worldwide, especially between the UK and the USA. Not only has this created a shared bond amongst those who share the #occupy/#ows/#olsx hashtag community, but also a shared bond between those who are involved in active self-exclusion from the #Occupy movement. As a rule (and I admit these are very broad brushstrokes) many of those who most fervently identify with #occupy, and who have the most longevity within the movement, tend to be relative newcomers to the loosely delineated political “scene”. They have created an impressive spectacle, and also, undoubtably, helped shift media debate within the mainstream press towards issues of social justice and “capitalist excess”. President Obama made a hat-tip to “irresponsible” capitalism in his State of the Union address, whilst David Cameron has also taken up similar rhetoric since the protests started in London in October.

It is this very rhetoric which the community around FULL COMMUNISM wish to distance themselves from. They tend to be activists who have been involved in political action for longer, and, rather than the slightly amorphous, undefined ideology of #Occupy, self-identify dogmatically on the anti-authoritarian left; anarchists, anarcho-communists, autonomists, Maoists and the ultra-left have all taken up the semi-ironic slogan. It has also transferred to similar online-communities operating the US, who operate a creative twitter practice indulging in the absurd and the fanciful, whilst utilizing a base level of formal Marxist rhetoric and political abrasiveness.

Despite utilizing the slogan to draw clear ground between themselves and the “fluffy liberals” who coalesce around the Occupy hashtags, I wish to posit a controversial stance on FULL COMMUNISM as a hashtag community: FULL COMMUNISM operates as a memetic non-demand; that is, its vital memetic resonance functions precisely because, as most successful memes, it is essentially contentless. FULL COMMUNISM pulls together a hashtag community around a cipher of radicalism, disguising the reality, which is that within that community there are no real political demands capable of creating a sense of political purpose. Like #occupy, it is a slogan or hashtag of will rather than a hashtag of intent.

It must be pointed out that the cultural position of FULL COMMUNISM is as a sincere irony; that is, it walks the fuzzy boundary between self-parody and real desire. Take a number of the following tweets, screengrabbed earlier today:

FULL COMMUNISM ON TWITTER

The tone of these tweets are almost always light-hearted; the slogan may be utilized to signify a pleasant physical or mental state, an escape from an unpleasant experience, or an angry retort towards a person (tweeter, politician or celebrity) who expresses positions not in line with the community norm. It’s a shared aspiration, in short, which binds those who use it into a sense of commonality or solidarity. Its very extremism, excluding those who either don’t “get the joke” or, more likely, are intimidated by it, forms a common bond. This “like it or lump it” form of distanciation, couched in multiple ironic layers, is also popular with philosopher Slavoj Zizek, who is fond of making statements such as “Communism! I am absolutely in favour of egalitarianism with a taste of terror”, or claiming to be a Stalinist.

So, what is the extreme position that FULL COMMUNISM signifies? Put sharply, it doesn’t. It’s a statement defined by what it rejects, and its meaning is in its lack, its absence. FULL COMMUNISM is the analogue of #Occupy, a way to draw together into a simulated community of political solidarity without having to develop a political programme. To actually begin to define the ambition would cause the fragmentation of the community; the ideas shared under the auspice of the meme would (and could) never constitute a programme for the meme. For those hoping to build programmatic political organisations, this is the total-limit of internet politics. But for those of us who see the recent uprisings worldwide as symptomatic of a new, networked political subjectivity, this ad-hoc, anti-programmatic community is an exciting potential.

Whilst the extant meaning of FULL COMMUNISM may be, indeed, meaningless, devoid of political content, it operates on the level of common bond built upon shared frustration. FULL COMMUNISM isn’t a united desire for a shared political position. Like #occupy, it’s a shared shout of “I’m fucking sick of this shit”. Unlike #occupy, however, it also holds an added threat: “I’m so fucking sick of this shit I have no desire to reform it. I want to go beyond. I want to fuck shit up”. FULL COMMUNISM is a meme with the potential for much more resonance in the coming months, a rapidly expanding spawnpoint for dissatisfaction.

As an addendum to this argument, I’d like to forward a brief point that I feel I implicitly touched upon in this essay, but that I think we should build on explicitly. This short article is, of course, lighthearted, but I think there’s a more interesting point lurking somewhere in here. If we accept that the internet is not just a space for organizing IRL political actions, but a territory of action in itself (as the actions of Anonymous and, more recently, the Anti-SOPA actions suggest), we should think about what sort of territory it is. The idea of a hashtag community is, I think, a potential for building effective, “weak” social ties, useful in swarm and hive practices. We should be aware of how a hashtag community operates as a public space; like, for example, the salons of 19th Century Paris, or town squares. They communicate a shared ideology which others take notice of. Some will pick them up straight away as the resonance with their own lived experience is so strong, others will hang around, listening to the arguments, following different discussions, making up their own minds. The term “trending topic” only touches upon the importance of the hashtag as public space; a trending topic doesn’t just reflect an idea, or news story, it perpetuates it. The politics of the movement not withstanding, #Occupy as a hashtag broke open new public space for a much-needed conversation. Once “cracked”, it enabled many thousands of people an access to a community already discussing important issues. We should not underestimate the power of a hashtag in social change.

Originally posted at the finest products on 26 January 2012

Posted By

Anonymous
Jan 26 2012 00:11

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  • Whilst the meaning of FULL COMMUNISM may be meaningless, devoid of political content, it operates on the level of common bond built upon shared frustration. FULL COMMUNISM isn’t a united desire for a shared political position. Like #occupy, it’s a shared shout of “I’m fucking sick of this shit.”

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Comments

Joseph Kay
Jul 25 2018 20:05
wojtek wrote:
So DSG were essentially the people behind Novara Media?

No overlap in personnel afaik.

Rob Ray
Jul 25 2018 20:28

Full communism and the glorious future of techno-communism were both discussed part of that period though, which no doubt Mr Bastani was carefully taking notes on before he came up with FALC.

R Totale
Jul 26 2018 12:57

I had a look at that twitter page and Jesus:

I genuinely can't imagine a human being actually looking at that and thinking "yes, this is good." I wonder what DSG would've thought if someone told them that, a few years down the line, this is what the phrase they popularised would be associated with.

Mike Harman
Jul 26 2018 15:07

It's very similar to the 'tankies' collage including Nehru, Mengistu and others.

However it relies on two things, at least one of which we can do something about:

1. Most of the pro-Stalin cos-players don't know anything about W. E. B. Du Bois or Sankara
2. A lot of anarcho-communists also don't know fuck all about W. E. B. Du Bois or Sankara

For example Sankara refused foreign aid from the USSR and denounced the USSR invasion of Afghanistan. The people chucking Sankara memes around will insist the USSR's foreign investment programmes weren't imperialist and defend the invasion of Afghanistan.

Proper critical libertarian communist engagement with these (there's a lot written about Dubois and Black Reconstruction like https://libcom.org/library/w-e-b-du-bois-proletariat-black-reconstructio... afaik, almost nothing on Sankara though, but something on the vulnerability of state socialist reformers to coups/assassination would be easy, on his actual reforms and rise to power a bit harder but still worth documenting) would help undermine the approach at least a little bit.

R Totale wrote:
I wonder what DSG would've thought if someone told them that, a few years down the line, this is what the phrase they popularised would be associated with.

Well the author of this piece (the original blog post this comes from: http://huwlemmey.tumblr.com/post/16488111086/on-full-communism-cursory-n...) is here interviewing Paul Mason on 'post-capitalism' and here doing a talk on Corbynmania, so it seems like they've gone FALC/Corbyn - not sure that's much better than the twitter tankies at least once you take into account proximity to state power. Not sure if they were actually in DSG as a group or what the members of DSG in general are up to though.

Steven.
Jul 26 2018 15:24

Yeah, as far as I'm aware the main DSG people now seem to be supporting "Corbyn as a transitional demand" instead of lulz

R Totale
Jul 26 2018 17:08
Mike Harman wrote:
It's very similar to the 'tankies' collage including Nehru, Mengistu and others.

Yeah, but this is at least 50% worse because of the representation of "people who criticise Stalin", which comprehensively owns everyone who doesn't like gulags by showing that... anarchists vape and drink sparkling water? Is that the new stereotype now? Is the anarchist who vapes the same person as the anarchist with a dog on a bit of a string, or has the anarchist with a dog on a bit of string finally been allowed to retire after their many years of faithful service?

Quote:
it seems like they've gone FALC/Corbyn - not sure that's much better than the twitter tankies at least once you take into account proximity to state power.

Maybe this is a bad way of judging ideologies, but I sort of think of Corbynism as being the default ideology of like "vaguely political mate with generally sound instincts/militant unionist you might get chatting to on a picket line", whereas I associate twitter tankies much more with just "weirdo from the internet posting stuff by holocaust deniers to own the imperialists and then blocking everyone who points it out as a CIA shill".

Steven. wrote:
"Corbyn as a transitional demand" instead of lulz

A sad sign of how much we've all had to tighten our belts over the last few years of austerity cuts.

Mike Harman
Jul 27 2018 03:00
R Totale wrote:
Maybe this is a bad way of judging ideologies, but I sort of think of Corbynism as being the default ideology of like "vaguely political mate with generally sound instincts/militant unionist you might get chatting to on a picket line"

For me there's a big difference between wanting Corbyn to get in and the NHS to get a bit more money, vs. ideologically supporting the Corbyn project via interviews/seminars/articles. Same as there's a difference between vaguely thinking Castro or Chavez is pretty cool and active genocide denial.

If we look at Paul Mason. Support for Trident renewal and increasing military spending, wargaming about China, calls for stricter border controls, op-eds about Churchill being an anti-fascist hero cancelling out his pre-1940 strike breaking (ignoring gulags in Kenya and Malaya post-war, the Bengal famine during the war), supporting the SAS on the streets and building a British equivalent to France's paramilitary GIGN, selfies with statues of Tito. All this with half a million twitter followers instead of 25k, columns in the New Statesman etc.

Then there's the ideological gymnastics that anarcho-corbynists (and 'class war social democrats') have been going through to justify 10,000 extra police officers and 500 extra border guards (to the point of saying that police cuts are 'Tory' and more police might mean softer policing methods)... it just has a lot more direct and practical application to actual material circumstances in the UK than twitter Stalinism, and is a lot more popular.

Also carries more weight when it comes from someone putting on plays in central London theatres about Louise Michel, articles republished on libcom, quotes the machine fragment in the Grundrisse to justify their social democratic managerialism, books published by Verso etc, worthy successor to Marx in the Graun etc. compared to making CIA-psyop memes with MS paint.

So when both are claiming the 'full communism' meme or its FALC variant, they're both pretty bad. I realise there are professional journalistic equivalents of Mason on the tankie side with Ben Norton et al. but those have weaker links with the British 2010/2011 ultra-left.

Uncreative
Jul 27 2018 08:43
Mike Harman wrote:
Well the author of this piece (the original blog post this comes from: http://huwlemmey.tumblr.com/post/16488111086/on-full-communism-cursory-n...) is here interviewing Paul Mason on 'post-capitalism' and here doing a talk on Corbynmania, so it seems like they've gone FALC/Corbyn

Appropriate, then, that the website link at the bottom of the article points to a hollow shell with all of its content long since removed and replaced by an advert.